The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

Iowa City restaurants, customers embrace new THC drink products

Bar managers and customers alike are excited about the new drink, many praising it as an alternative to beer products.
Emily Nyberg
Greg Ruth drinks a Climbing Kites cannabis infused sparkling water at Big Grove Brewery in Iowa City on Thursday, Feb. 8, 2024.

THC drinks are hitting the shelves in Iowa City bars and stores, and customers are enthusiastically embracing them as a drink choice other than alcohol.

“I love it as an alternative,” Steve Nash said while sitting at the bar of ReUnion Brewery. “You can walk into a bar and feel like you’re still part of the experience with everyone else, but you can consume something non-alcoholic and still have a nice fun time with your friends.”

THC is the psychoactive substance found in cannabis. Anywhere from five to 20 milligrams of THC can create impairment. ReUnion Brewery, Joe’s Place, and Big Grove Brewery all offer drinks containing a maximum of 10 milligrams of THC per drink. These drinks contain no alcohol.

While the recreational use of cannabis is illegal both in Iowa and federally, the most recent version of the farm bill, passed by former President Donald Trump in 2018, legalized the sale of hemp-derived drink products containing less than 0.3 percent of THC by volume in all 50 states.

Both ReUnion and Joe’s have a limit of four drinks per person. Big Grove, however, leaves the decision to limit drinks to servers, Big Grove Service Manager Karley Hester said.

ReUnion Brewery introduced THC-infused drinks on Jan. 26 through a partnership with Minnesota-based manufacturer WLD WTR. ReUnion offers three varieties of THC drinks each coming with 10 milligrams of THC, ReUnion Brewery Manager Elliot Lamb said.

ReUnion’s branded drink, Jungle Vibes, is paired with two other offerings which come in flavors like strawberry watermelon and blueberry lemon. While Jungle Vibes will stay, Lamb said the other two drinks may change seasonally.

“We’re happy. It’s something we wanted to try and give people that alternative,” Lamb said. “Just a nice, functional way to step away from alcohol.”

Hester said Big Grove has seen fewer issues with individuals overusing THC drinks compared to overusing alcohol.

“What we’re seeing is that there’s less issues with these drinks than alcohol in general,” Hester said.

Big Grove has offered THC drinks for nearly six months and is now a part of the manufacturing process of the THC drinks.

Hester said Big Grove partnered with the Des Moines-based brewing company Lua Brewing.

“They have been selling very well, I think better than we even thought they would at first,” Hester said.

She said she has tried the drinks and describes the experience as mellow, but it can impact people differently depending on the amount of THC consumed through the product.

“You have, like, this head high and you just feel good,” Hester said. “You’re kind of giggly and then after that, I just noticed that I get a good night’s sleep.”

While he was actively consuming a THC drink branded as “Climbing Kites” at Big Grove, Greg Ruth, 38, said he’s from California, where recreational cannabis use is legal, and had used cannabis products during that time.

“It’s a longer-lasting high,” Ruth said. “I really just want to melt into the couch, which for me is a good thing because I’m on my feet all day, and then when I get home I just really want to relax.”

Ruth said he found the drinks as a preferable alternative to alcoholic beverages at the bar.

“My relationship with alcohol has shifted a lot as I’ve gotten older. I find myself wanting to drink less alcohol because it doesn’t make me feel great the next day,” Ruth said. “For me, beverages like Climbing Kites are just a means to use less alcohol.”

Stacey Gonzalez, a manager at Joe’s Place, said the bar started offering THC drinks in the last month.

Gonzalez said the bar offers drinks ranging from 2.5 to 10 milligrams of THC. 

She said it is taking time for people to realize Joe’s Place offers the drinks.

“People are just excited that there’s some extra options besides just drinking any beer or soda,” Gonzalez said.

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About the Contributors
Jack Moore
Jack Moore, News Editor
Jack Moore is a second-year student at the University of Iowa majoring in Journalism and Mass Communication. He is from Cedar Rapids Iowa. Along with working at The Daily Iowan, Jack works for the University of Iowa's UI-REACH program as a Resident Assistant. UI-REACH is a program for students with learning, cognitive, and behavioral disabilities intended to provide support to these students throughout their college experience. Additionally, Jack is involved in Iowa City's live music scene as he plays bass for local Iowa City band "Two Canes."
Emily Nyberg
Emily Nyberg, Visual Editor
Emily Nyberg is a second-year student at the University of Iowa double majoring in Journalism and Cinematic arts. Prior to her role as a Visual Editor, Emily was a Photojournalist, and a News Reporter covering higher education.